I am BARRY HESS > Blog

Hardware and Software

John Nunemaker at RailsTips recently asked the Tubes what hardware and software was being used to complete work. Here’s my rundown.


My workspace

(annotated version)

My deck is a MacBook 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo with 4GB RAM. I’ve been using an Apple Wireless keyboard for a while. I loved typing on my Microsoft Ergo 4000 board, but it’s so damn wide. My shoulder thanks me for the Wireless even while my wrists are slapping me.

I also have an auxiliary computer, a Mac Mini. It serves a slave purpose most of they day, playing music from iTunes and providing API docs on the second monitor. It has saved my bacon as an emergency work machine in the past. Behind the BenQ 24“ monitor sits a 250GB Western Digital Passport drive for backup. More about that later.

Shure E2c headphones provide complete aural privacy when needed. However I have grown tired of these as in-ear headphones bother me rather quickly. Even though the Shures provide about 9 different pieces of in-ear hardware, none of them quite work for me. I’ll probably move on to an over-ear solution soon.


Let me get the basics out of the way. TextMate, iTerm, Safari for speed, FireFox for developing, Skitch, CocoaMySQL (which has apparently disappeared), and Quicksilver.

Time tracking is Harvest country. Actually, I interact with my time almost exclusively through Co-op‘s integration with Harvest. I do visit Harvest for reporting and such.

For email, I pretty much use Gmail with Mailplane exclusively.

I don’t have a lot of calendaring needs, so I mostly use Google Calendar (watch out, still in beta). At some point I set up an unholy sync to iCal so I get PING reminders every so often. But honestly, I don’t trust the sync at all. If I ever have greater need for strict calendaring I’ll get it all figured out. (My personal email is also sort of on Gmail, though I don’t have Apps for [My] Domain set up or anything. Just an auto-forward.)

I work on a completely distributed team, yet I hardly never use the phone, audio chat, or video chat. On occasion I’ll use Google Chat to have a quick conversation with my team. For the most part, Co-op and email keep us connected. Oh, and we’re using an internal app to deal with our tickets and plans. Not sure if I’d call it a project management app, though. Project management is a bit too highfalutin for us. :)

I’m pretty sure Things is my thing for personal task management. Will have to decide within a few days.

Big point. Get a backup system. A bootable backup is preferred if you depend on working hours to make money (i.e. you’re not salaried). I have partitioned my Western Digital 250GB Passport such that it can hold to entire bootable mirrors of my MacBook. I then use SuperDuper! on a schedule to create a mirror on alternating partitions each day (except Sunday). In the end, this gives me two days worth of bootable partitions at any one time. I have used this to work for a week on my Mac Mini (booted from the Western Digital drive as if my MacBook) while my MacBook was in the shop. Saved my bacon, I say!

Wait, now that isn’t so much a backup system as a recovery system. I also send all of my important files, as well as every family photo, nightly to Amazon S3 via Jungle Disk. I can’t recommend it enough.

Some other apps I find myself using throughout the day: RapidoWrite, Twitter, Twitterific on the iPhone, Google Reader (for personal feeds), Fluid (for app instances of Twitter, Google Reader and Co-op), NetNewsWire (for work feeds), growl, jing (for quick videos to share with the team), Flickr (for quick photo shares), SmugMug (to share photos with my family), Don’t Break the Chain (to keep me exercising, reading, writing, and sleeping), VueScan, PDFMergeX (for reassembling scanned documents), FuzzyClock (who needs to know the exact time?), SpiritedAway (auto-hide unused apps), iPhoney, NeoOffice, Pixelmator, Fusion, github, and gitx. When I need to take a note, I do it in text files which I can search with Spotlight. To ease the sorting pain, I use some Automator scripts.

Hopefully this quick rundown has given you some ideas for things you can improve in your work environment. Keep in mind, home office workers, watch out for bling creep. If you have an idea where I can improve, please do share!